THERE are more distractions for road users than ever before and in a recent road safety survey, Victorians are concerned about how distractions are affecting their safety on the roads.
Any object or activity that takes a person’s attention away from the road whether it is a mobile phone or MP3 player, eating or talking to others is a potential distraction.
These distractions not only affect drivers, but also vulnerable road users such as pedestrians and cyclists.
The TAC has used research from the US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) which reports there are four distinct types of distraction: visual, auditory, physical and cognitive.
These can be put into two categories:
* Non-technology based, mobile phones, navigation devices, DVD players and MP3 players.
* Non-technology based, talking to passengers, eating, drinking and smoking.
A US observational study has found 80 per cent of collisions are caused by drivers whose attention is taken away from the road.
The study found distraction was the single biggest cause of crashes and near misses – with road users who take their eyes off the road for two seconds or longer, doubling their crash risk.
Distracted road users were the target of a TAC campaign launched in February, 2013 with the aim to highlight the dangers of taking your eyes off the road for just two seconds.
International research into road user distractions has established the ‘eyes off the road’ time theory as a major contributor to crashes.
This ‘eyes off the road’ time is generally defined as two seconds plus – the average person’s reaction time to an event is 1.8 seconds which is factored into the probability of a crash and the severity of injury from a crash.
This means nearly four seconds can pass before the average ‘distracted’ driver can react.
Driving while using a mobile phone can impair a driver’s reaction time, visual search patterns, ability to maintain speed and position on the road, ability to judge safe gaps in the traffic and general awareness of other traffic.
Run-off-the-road crashes and ‘rear end’ crashes are the most common types of crashes associated with mobile phone usage.
From November 25, 2013, new rules relating to the use of mobile phones while driving were introduced in Victoria.
Penalties for the illegal use of mobile phones whilst driving will increase the fine from $289 to $433, demerit points from three to four points.
Penalties for the illegal use of visual display units such as DVD players and tablet computers will be consistent with mobile phone penalties: $433 fine and four demerit points.
Holders of a probationary P2 licence will not be able to use a mobile phone for any task while driving, including making or receiving a call or messaging of any kind; this ban already applies to probationary P1 licence holders and learner drivers.